In 1968, at the age of 12, I jumped on the banana seat of my three-speed stingray bicycle and peddled to the town square of my Kentucky hometown to witness history in the making. I leaned against the bronze statue next to the courthouse that had been erected “In Honor of Our Confederate Dead” and watched as Lusca Twyman was sworn in as the first African American mayor of a southern city elected in the 20th century.
The black population of Glasgow, KY was fewer than ten percent and yet this decidedly racist town had elected a black mayor. In part this was because Mr. Twyman was an educated, honest, and good man. It also helped that the other candidate was one of the most dishonest and loathed men in the county. As is often the case in politics, the good people of my southern hometown did the right thing but only when it had become the only plausible option left to them.
Springfield is my hometown now. I’ve lived here longer even than the 18 years I spent growing up in Glasgow. My new hometown, along with my adopted state, is now coming down to a narrow passage where we will have to make a choice, though there really is only one defensible choice to make yet even our Governor seems timid about embracing the obvious.
In spite of an estimated 18% of Missourians living without health insurance, nearly double the national average, our state government is still trying not to accept the federally passed Affordable Healthcare Act. I cannot call it “Obamacare” because the legislation was written by and largely for the benefit of insurance and pharmaceutical companies. It is a far cry from what President Obama first promised us but in the 21st century, insurance and “big pharma” have more power in American than does our federal government. It isn’t the healthcare reform that we wanted. It isn’t what we need. But it is so much better than the status quo that even conservatives who absolutely hate it are going to have to swallow hard and accept it until we gain the political will to do something better.
When I entered the ministry in 1978, my salary was $12,000 per year and my health insurance, with a $100 deductable, cost me $17 per month. Thankfully, my income grew through the years but not in proportion to my health insurance! I have kept my monthly premium under $600 per month only by raising the deductable to $5000. So, even though I am counted among the “insured” do I really have affordable healthcare when I must pay high premiums and pay thousands of dollars out of pocket before my insurance company shows up on the job?
Eight presidents have tried to fix our ailing health care delivery system and the best we’ve been able to come up with is the AHA. There is, in fact, a lot to like about it but that fact pales into insignificance compared with the alternative. It is time to do the right thing for the poor and ill of Missouri, even if it cuts against our partisan sentiments.